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News: May 2017

Green Awards ceremony honours exceptional LIFE projects


31 May 2017Outstanding LIFE projects from the programme's 25-year history were celebrated at the Green Awards ceremony in Brussels on 30 May. A special edition of the annual LIFE awards, the Green Awards singled out projects that have had remarkable effects on the EU's natural environment and in creating green jobs and boosting green growth over the past quarter century.

Taking place during EU Green Week, the packed ceremony was attended by people from across the EU, with representatives from local authorities, government agencies, educational institutions, students, private companies, NGOs and volunteers.

The event kicked off with a keynote speech by the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, who noted: "A quarter century is a long time, and over that time [LIFE] has achieved a great deal. It has funded more than 4 000 projects to the tune of over €3 billion." He told attendees that the awards symbolise the Commission's "appreciation for the efforts of thousands, the hard work and dedication of everyone who has contributed to the programme as a whole".


A total of 15 projects were selected as finalists for the hotly contested awards by an expert jury, who looked at their long-term sustainability, communication potential and broader impact on a national, European or global level. Projects were also assessed for innovation, transferability, environmental benefits and improvement of conservation status. The winners were then chosen by public vote on Facebook.
Mr Vella presented awards to the two winners in the Environment category - BREAD4PLA and SOL-BRINE - as well as the victors in the Nature and Biodiversity category - BurrenLIFE and Reintroducción Lince Andalucia. Yvon Slingenberg from the Commission's Directorate-General for Climate Action awarded the prizes to the winners of the climate action category, DYEMOND SOLAR and AgriClimateChange.

This special event highlighted the impressive achievements of LIFE during the past quarter century, including a video charting the development of the programme and its contribution to reducing human impact on the environment, protecting Europe’s natural heritage and tackling the challenge of climate change. As Mr Vella said, LIFE is "living proof of the Commission's commitment to a better tomorrow, and that's why after 25 years it still has a bright future ahead of it".

Pictures of the Green Awards are available on our Flickr page.

Natura 2000 Awards: Call for entries  

Natura 2000 Awards

25 May 2017The call for applications for the 2018 edition of the Natura 2000 Awards is now open.

Find out more from the Natura 2000 Awards webpage including application details, guidance documents and an explanation of how to participate in the exciting award ceremony.

The awards are designed to reward excellence in the management of Natura 2000 network sites. The aim is to demonstrate how the network works and to showcase its added value for local economies.

The Natura 2000 network is ensuring the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats, and is the centrepiece of the EU's nature and biodiversity policy. The network covers almost a fifth of Europe’s land area and an important part of the surrounding seas, making it the largest coordinated network of conservation areas anywhere in the world.

Visit the previous Natura 2000 Awards winners from 2016, 2015 and 2014 to find out more about their impressive achievements. The 2018 awards promise to be every bit as exciting and inspirational as the previous editions.

If you plan to enter the competition, remember the deadline for applications is the 29 September 2017.

The eventual winners will be announced at a high level ceremony in Brussels in May 2018.

Good luck to all applicants!

Countdown to the Green Awards – agenda now available

Green Awards

24 May 2017The agenda for the Green Awards ceremony, which will take place on 30 May 2017  in Brussels, is now available!

Mr Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, will make the keynote speech and present awards in the environment and nature and biodiversity categories.

Yvon Slingenbergh from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action will award prizes in the climate action category.

The nominated projects can be found here. The nominees were selected by a jury which looked at projects’ long-term sustainability, communication potential and their broader impact on a national, European or global level. Projects were also assessed for innovation, transferability, environmental benefits and conservation status improvement.

The ceremony will begin with a video that charts the development of the LIFE programme and its contribution to reducing human impact on the environment, protecting Europe’s natural heritage and tackling the challenge of our changing climate.

The evening will conclude with a networking session for participants. The LIFE programme communications team will also participate in Green Week with an exhibition stand and a photo booth on the 30 and 31 May 2017. Come meet us in the exhibition area!


LIFE greening jobs and growth

LIFE greening jobs and growthClick on image
to view as flippingbook

23 May 2017“LIFE is contributing to the spread of green skills and the creation of green jobs in a broad range of sectors.”- Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs.

The latest LIFE Focus brochure shows just how the EU’s fund for environment, nature and climate protection is doing this. Produced to coincide with the EU Green Jobs Summit in Brussels, the brochure echoes the theme of Green Week 2017: “Green Jobs for a Greener Future”.

LIFE greening jobs and growth focuses on the people that have found new employment or developed new green skills thanks to LIFE. Their stories bring home the important contribution the LIFE programme has made to green growth.

The brochure shows LIFE’s impact on people working in cities, the countryside, and coastal communities (‘blue growth’). It also highlights green jobs in the water sector, and green jobs of the future (new developments in solar cell technology, sustainable packaging, and the recycling of cars and ships).

Finally, we hear from young people around Europe who have learned important skills for life and work through volunteering on LIFE projects. LIFE will continue to strengthen the  capacity to provide volunteering services for young people across the European Union by funding preparatory projects for the new European Solidarity Corps - covering environmental protection, nature conservation and restoration of natural areas and ecosystems.

“The skills I gained by learning to build and maintain the green infrastructure on the LIFE project are skills I still use today in my work. I will build on these skills the rest of my life.” – Wayne Essien, participant in the LIFE Housing Landscapes project

Download: LIFE greening jobs and growth
pdf (~ 12.2 MB)

LIFE RE-WEEE holds Consultation Forum to help choose locations for WEEE Sorting Centres


19 May 2017The LIFE RE-WEEE (LIFE14 ENV/GR/000858) project held its 3rd Consultation Forum on 10 March 2017 to help choose two municipalities for its Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Sorting Centres, in the Greek regions of Attika and Central Macedonia.

LIFE RE-WEEE is demonstrating new approaches for the prevention and reuse of WEEE, including the development of efficient sorting and preparation for reuse methods. It aims to establish - for the first time in Greece - the foundations for the prevention of waste through systematic collection and re-use operations. The two new sorting centres will process a variety of WEEE, with the aim of increasing consumer acceptance of Used Electrical and Electronic Equipment (UEEE).

The Consultation Forum was attended by over 40 bodies and organisations related to the management and preparation for re-use of WEEE, such as municipalities, the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy, and companies involved in WEEE treatment. Competing municipalities gave detailed presentation as part of the tender procedure to help select the most suitable locations for the sorting centres.

Maria Banti, policy officer, European Commission, Environment DG, opened the forum and gave a presentation on European policy principles concerning WEEE treatment and the circular economy. The LIFE RE-WEEE project, through its sorting centres, aims to demonstrate how targets prescribed in European policy and legislation can be achieved. 

During the event, the LIFE RE-WEEE project team gave an overview of their activities and the technical requirements for the sorting centres. The forum also provided a platform for an open discussion with the participants, with the project team explaining the tender process and the operational framework for the proposed sorting centres.

Further information about the LIFE RE-WEEE can be found on the project website.

LIFE inspired European Natura 2000 Day officially recognised

Photo: EC Audiovisual Services

17 May 2017Following the signing of a joint declaration, the 21 May is now officially recognised as European Natura 2000 Day and will be celebrated annually.

The establishment of an annual day to celebrate Natura 2000 network – the largest network of protected sites in the world – and raise awareness of the importance of its conservation is the initiative of the Spanish LIFE project Activa Red Natura 2000 (LIFE11 INF/ES/000665).

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Brussels on the occasion of the declaration, Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime  Affairs  and  Fisheries commended the idea of European Natura 2000 Day, which “began as a grassroots initiative through an EU-funded LIFE project in Spain. I would like to pay tribute to the people who have worked hard to make this Day a reality.”

He added that, "with the European Natura 2000 Day we pay tribute to this unique network and its value for people and our economy. For me it is one of the European Union’s truly outstanding achievements: a network of over 27 000 protected sites, covering over 1 million square kilometres across the land and sea, made possible through the cooperation among all our Member States."

The declaration recognises that greater efforts need to be made to achieve the goals of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The latter was introduced on 21 May 1992 and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year together with LIFE programme. This year hundreds of LIFE and Natura 2000 network local events and networking will take place across Europe to mark the day.

“The European Natura 2000 Day is a focal point for European citizens to demand nature protection. At this challenging time for Europe, nature is a true binding European value,” said Ruiz Asunción, the LIFE Activa Red Natura 2000 project leader.
The Natura 2000 Day is the first initiative of the European Commission’s recently adopted Action Plan for nature, people and the economy that prioritises outreach and communication of the objectives of its nature policies and programmes, such as LIFE.

Attendees at the signing ceremony also participated in a picture exhibition highlighting actions supported by LIFE over the past 25 years.

LIFEnews N° 04/17

LIFEnews 03/17

15 May 2017This issue of LIFEnews looks at green jobs and skills.

The first article features an interview with Christos Kissas from LIFE's external monitoring team about a new study on the programme's impact on jobs and growth.

The second article showcases a number of LIFE projects that have created new sustainable jobs and promoted the development of green skills.




Download this issue >>

LIFE project uses unusual technique to reintroduce endangered species

Photo:LIFE12 BIO/AT/000143

12 May 2017The LIFE project Waldrappteam (LIFE12 BIO/AT/000143) is using the unusual technique of hand-raising chicks to successfully reintroduce the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) into Europe. In April, 31 chicks aged between2-to-8 days were taken from nests at two breeding colonies in Austria to be cared for by experienced – human - foster mothers. These birds will become the founders of a new Northern Bald Ibis breeding colony in Überlingen at Lake Constance, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

The Northern Bald Ibis disappeared from Europe some 400 years ago and there is currently only one remaining colony in Morocco (consisting of around 200 adults) and a few individuals in the Middle East.

The Waldrappteam project aims to reintroduce the large black bird with a bald red head into Europe and to ensure its survival by setting up migratory breeding colonies in Germany and Austria, with a common wintering area in Tuscany (Italy).

To achieve this, the project beneficiaries are hand raising a new generation of Ibis chicks at the Rosegg Zoo in Carinthia, Austria that will then be transferred to a campsite near Überlingen. There, they learn to follow a microlight air plane thanks to help from their human foster mums. In autumn, as in previously, the birds will follow the microlight to the wintering site in Tuscany, where they will then be released.

This year, almost twice as many birds have been raised by the two foster mothers, Corinna Esterer and Anne-Gabriela Schmalstieg, as compared to previous years. A development welcomed by Johannes Fritz, the LIFE project manager, "this is a considerable optimisation of the method but also a very big challenge and responsibility for the foster parents. Only highly qualified and professional persons like Anne and Corinna with their extensive pre-experience can accomplish this task."

Rosegg Zoo has been keeping a Northern Bald Ibis colony, of some 60 birds, since 2004. As director Emanuel Liechtenstein explained, "our zoo is home to the world's largest seasonally free-flying sedentary zoo-colony of Northern Bald Ibises, with a very good annual reproduction rate. We can thus contribute substantially to the reintroduction project. So far, our zoo has provided around 160 chicks to the project.”

Überlingen at Lake Constance was not chosen by chance as the breeding site. "Until the 16th century, the Northern Bald Ibis used to breed at the sandstone cliffs north of Überlingen. Now they shall return to this former breeding area,” noted Mr Fritz.

The LIFE project is also working towards reducing losses from the illegal hunting of the species while a ‘Reason for Hope’ campaign consisting of conservation and demonstration actions across Europe, is expected to reduce losses and raise awareness of European migratory bird species in general.

For more information, visit the Waldrappteam project website.

See you at the Green Awards?

Green Week

11 May 2017Voting for the Green Awards is now closed. The Green Awards commemorate the most outstanding completed LIFE projects since 1992 and they form one of the highlights of the LIFE programme’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

The winners, who have been selected via a public vote on Facebook, will be announced in three categories: Environment; Nature & biodiversity; and Climate Action.

The award ceremony takes place in Brussels on the evening of 30 May 2017 as part of EU Green Week - a key event in the European environment policy calendar attracting policymakers, leading environmentalists, stakeholders and other interested parties from across Europe and the globe. The theme of this year’s Green Week is “Green jobs for a greener future”.

LIFE will also participate in Green Week with an exhibition stand and a selfie photo booth on the 30-31 May 2017. Drop by the exhibition area! 

First Natural Capital Financing Facility loan agreement channels LIFE funding to rewilding initiative


10 May 2017On 11 April 2017, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced the first loan agreement backed by the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), one of the two innovative financial instruments funded by the LIFE programme. The €6 million loan was made available to Rewilding Europe Capital (REC).

The NCFF is a LIFE financial instrument providing loans or equity investments for revenue-generating or cost-saving projects that promote the preservation of natural capital for biodiversity and climate change adaptation purposes, backed by an EU guarantee. It recognises and fosters the business case for investing in natural capital.

At the signing ceremony in Brussels, Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said:
"Nature is essential for our lives, and our economy. The recent successful evaluation of the EU Nature directives illustrated this. The Rewilding Europe project will be the first of many that the Bank on Nature initiative, building on the Natural Capital Financing Facility, will assist in our plans to create rural jobs and protect nature".

Jonathan Taylor, EIB Vice-President responsible for Climate and Environment said:
"There is a great business case for investing in nature. Biodiversity and economic growth can go hand in hand. As the EU Bank we are committed to investing in projects that support a vibrant rural economy, while also safeguarding our biodiversity and wisely managing natural capital. The Natural Capital Financing Facility is a ground breaking partnership between the EU Bank and the European Commission and this first project with Rewilding Europe Capital gets us off to the best possible start". 

Rewilding Europe is a Dutch Foundation which established Rewilding Europe Capital in 2014 to build a business case for wild nature in Europe. It has stimulated and supported enterprise economies connected to natural landscapes. With NCFF backing, Rewilding Europe Capital will be able to support over 30 rewilding businesses across Europe. Eligible businesses are those that generate economic or social benefits in ways that support  conservation and rewilding initiatives; these include wildlife tourism operations, sustainable fisheries, and producers of natural products such as honey. The NCFF loan agreement is expected to create at least 250 jobs.

"The contract with the EIB that we've signed today is a great step forward for Rewilding Europe Capital,” said Ilko Bosman, Executive Director of Rewilding Europe Capital. “Not only will it allow us to really accelerate our facility, but above all by attracting external finance we can increase our ability to showcase how commercial finance can contribute to nature conservation and rewilding. With the proposed EIB/EU loan, all EU 28 countries will be considered and larger loan sizes will be permitted, including new nature-related business models in sectors like forestry, water management and tourism.”

Rewilding Europe has to date focused its activities on several strategic rewilding areas: Western Iberia (Portugal), Velebit Mountains (Croatia), Central Apennines (Italy), Southern Carpathians (Romania), Danube Delta (Romania), Rhodope Mountains (Bulgaria), Oder Delta (Germany/Poland) and Lapland (Sweden). These rewilding area comprise 38 Natura 2000 network sites. Therefore, the NCFF investment will also enable better implementation of the EU Habitats and Birds directives, and the comeback of iconic and threatened European wildlife such as the European bison, brown bear, pelicans and white-tailed eagles, to name just a few.

The LIFE programme aims to channel NCFF financing to projects involving payments for ecosystem services, green infrastructure, innovative pro-biodiversity and climate change adaptation investments, and biodiversity offsets (conservation actions that compensate for unavoidable harm to biodiversity caused by development).

EU action plan for nature to boost spending on LIFE Nature and biodiversity

EU action plan for nature

05 May 2017Following a thorough evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, the European Commission has adopted the Action Plan for nature, people and the economy. The action plan is designed to improve implementation of the directives and thus boost their contribution to the attainment of the EU's biodiversity targets for 2020.

The plan focuses on 4 priority areas and comprises 15 actions to be carried out between now and 2019. Its publication follows on from the recent Birds and Habitats Directives fitness check, which highlighted the strategic role that the LIFE programme plays in supporting the implementation of the Directives.

LIFE Nature and Biodiversity projects deliver high value for money and can support a much wider range of measures for both management and restoration of Natura 2000 network sites than other EU funding instruments, including communication and outreach activities. As such, LIFE has significant capacity to develop partnerships for effective and efficient implementation. Furthermore, the LIFE Regulation for 2014-2020 provides funding possibilities regarding the management of the Natura 2000 network and for more coherence through integrated projects on condition that they implement the PAFs.

The new action plan will enable the percentage of the LIFE programme budget for action grants for LIFE Nature and Biodiversity to be increased by up to 10%. This proposal will increase the LIFE budget dedicated to projects supporting the conservation of nature and biodiversity, while keeping the overall budgetary envelope of the LIFE programme unchanged. As well as driving forward the implementation of the nature directives through the co-funding of LIFE Nature projects, the additional funding will help develop LIFE Integrated Projects in Member States, strengthening their capacity for larger scale territorial action.

In addition, the action plan foresees support for additional pilot projects specifically targeted at landowners' organisations and their constituency, who contribute significantly to testing the applicability of tools for private land conservation in Natura 2000 network sites under the LIFE programme (2017-2019).
The action plan also foresees other LIFE funded actions such as the LIFE preparatory projects for the European Solidarity Corps call.

The action plan will be presented in detail at a conference on 6 June 2017 in Brussels jointly hosted by the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions and the Maltese Presidency.

LIFE preparatory projects for the European Solidarity Corps call

Photo:LIFE12 ENV/FR/001125

03 May 2017Following the feedback received in response to the call launched on the 7th of December 2016, the Commission has decided to publish a second call for proposals to support the European Solidarity Corps (ESC). The scope of supported activities will be environmental protection, nature conservation and restoration of natural areas and ecosystems, mainly the Natura 2000 network. For this second call some requirements have been modified, e.g. the minimum number of volunteers to be engaged in the ESC is one hundred (100) and the execution period may last up to three years (36 months).

LIFE Preparatory projects to support deployment of European Solidarity Corps (sub-programme for Environment) contribute to strengthening the Union's capacity to provide volunteering services for young people across the European Union. It focuses mainly on conservation of Natura 2000 sites, environmental protection, restoration of natural areas and ecosystems and on capacity building on voluntary services among ongoing LIFE projects.



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